Starting a small Tavern in rural Northern California. Barley and Hops Tavern catalogs the trials and tribulations of the restaurant biz, and teaching wine country to love beer.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

One up!

If you're in my chronological vicinity - that is to say - between 28 and 35, you remember 1-ups mainly in the form of Mario or Luigi punching green mushrooms. The fact is that video games no longer have a finite number of lives, and one-upping has taken on a new (or perhaps older) definition: Taking a concept, no matter how inane, and expanding upon it. This has, frankly, gotten re-snarkulous in the restaurant realm. I say realm, because I hate saying segment. Unless you're talking about centipedes, or citrus wedges, one should never use the word segment - it's annoying, and everyone hates it when you do it. So Stop. Where was I... Restaurant realm.

So everyone has seen the "Double Down" debacle, that KFC travesty, inflicted upon people stupid enough to buy such a thing. Yes, you're stupid if you buy factory made fried "chicken" stuffed with cheese-textured oil product, and what looks like bacon, but is probably the stuff that they say dogs can't tell isn't bacon. Which, by the way, is bullsnark. Dogs know. And they're hurt you'd try to deceive them, in the pretense that it's for their own good, you sanctimonious bastards.

Anyway- this is my segue to beer.

I hadn't realized the extant of barley one-upsmanship until getting into this business. There is a war on every front. One of the most hysterical, to me, are the macros arguing through millions of dollars of advertisement over whose beer has the lowest number of calories, and, of those insipid entries, which is the best tasting (which you should read as least offensive).

First off, super low calorie beer sucks. Let's talk about flavor. Beer consists of Barley and water, and is flavored with hops. The calories, by and large, come from the starches, which are converted via yeast into sugars and alcohol (and CO2). Sugar and alcohol have calories. Low alcohol beer is fine; a great deal of wonderful Czech Pils and German Lagers, as well as English Milds are between 3 and 4.5 percent. But they have flavor. If you want 60 calories of something with flavor, you are barking up the WRONG tree, Bucko. The commercial might say that Peoples Don't Know it's not Beer! But if you're even as smart as your dog, you'll know. I mean, are the 50 more calories in an Anchor steam REALLY worth cringing through crappy fake beer? Do an extra 10 situps and enjoy an actual beer, for the love of pie. Beer has been shown countless times to encourage healthy cholesterol, it has a good deal of protein, and even folate, along with antioxidants. Treat it as food. If you are that concerned about 50 calories, brew up some nice iced tea instead. It's just as good for the heat, is healthy, and has virtually zero calories.

Next up is on the other end of the spectrum - the race to have the strongest beer. This gets less press coverage because craft breweries spend their money on beer. As strange as it sounds not to dump every cent into advertising a flavorless, useless product. Nevertheless, a couple of breweries, one in Scotland, the other in Germany, are now pushing 43 percent, and going back and forth. The process is ice distillation. A beer is brewed, and then water is frozen out and removed, concentrating the beer further and further. This is very expensive, as it takes a ton of Barley and Hops to make a tiny amount of beer. I think that if you similarly distilled a six pack of Bud, removed all the water ice, you'd end up with something approaching a Sam Adams, but more watery. It's fun to be on top, but the fact is, these beers taste only marginally good, and are very gimicky.

Somewhere in the middle lies the hop-head beers. Every brewery on the West Coast seems to release an unapologetic one dimensional hop-bomb, listing the IBUs for comparison. These huge IPAs can be good now and then, but it does happen at the expense of good balance.

Gimmicky food and beer are like fad diets. They might seem to you like a good idea, (unless you're really smart, like me) until you realize that balance, not excess, can be exciting. It's pretty damn rare these days. Try something new - not "I want your lightest/strongest/hoppiest/sweetest". Try something without the superlative ending. Ask for something balanced. You might have forgotten how good it can be.

'Cause dogs know. And so do you.

No comments: